The Ultimate Guppy Care Guide – How to Care for Guppies?

Guppies are hardy fish. Taking care of them is not a complicated task that beginners will struggle with as guppies are one of the simplest fish species one can look after.

How to care for guppies? All you need to do is to provide them with suitable water and tank conditions. If you provide them with a convenient atmosphere, your guppies will function better than your expectations. Your care for guppies will be reflected by the enhancement of their colors, the improvement of their health and their lengthened lifespan.

Guppies are truly hardy but this does not mean that it is okay to neglect them or forget about cleaning their water regularly. Remember, at the end of the day, guppies are fish, and we all know that fish are delicate and sensitive to changes in their environment.

Be careful with the water’s quality because it is an essential factor which could either make your guppies healthy or kill them.

Since guppies are hardy fish, let us now learn more about how to care for them and how to keep them healthy, stress-free, and disease free.

Everything scientific you need to know about guppies!

Guppies live in fresh water and their original native habitat exists in South America. Guppies (which are also known by the name Endler Guppies) are scientifically known as “Poecilia wingei”.

This species belongs to the “Poeciliidae” family which includes the common guppies that are given the scientific name: “Poecilia reticulate”.

Did you know that there about three hundred different types of guppies?

It is so difficult to come across two guppies who look exactly the same. Guppies vary in their types, colors, shapes, sizes, behaviors, and tails. Their differences and their uniqueness make them valuable and precious creatures that are always a source of fascination and a huge element of marvel.

People would always speculate about guppies’ beautiful shapes and different colors. Now here’s something you really have to know if you plan on buying a guppy.

It is important to know the historical background of this species before bringing it home, gathering information about the pet you plan to keep will make you learn how to care for it.

We owe appreciation and gratitude to Robert John Lechmere Guppy. He is the person who the fish are called after.  Robert John Lechmere Guppy discovered the existence of this species of fish in 1866 in Trinidad. After the fish were discovered, they were taken by an Ichthyologist to the British Museum where they were given the name: “Girardinus guppii”.

But it seems like this species had a long history of going through many processes of changing its name. One of the names was “Lebistes reticulatusand” but finally it is now called “Poecilia reticulata.”

Moreover, not only did the guppies have lots of names, they also have common names or nicknames like “The Million Fish”. Why is that? Simply because they give birth a lot and they are always going to breed as long as there is a male and a female guppy in the same tank.

What is more, another common name for the guppies is, “The Rainbow Fish”. This is because they have a variety of bright colors that make them look vibrant and cheerful just like the rainbow.

Like the rainbow, they catch people’s eye and make them smile. Besides the guppies’ beauty and good nature, they were used in freshwater lakes in Asia to control the mosquito overpopulation. But their abundance in the freshwaters disturbed the original and native fish inhabitants.

What is the guppy’s behavior?

Guppies are nothing but extremely peaceful fish. They are far from aggressive. Just like the neon tetras, they mingle well in a community of fish and can adapt to a tank filled with fish as long as they are not their predators or larger in size.

They are very energetic and they swim so fast all around the tank in random patterns. Notice how the males are always chasing the female guppies in the tank to impress them so they would eventually mate.

The male guppies wiggle their fins as a strategy to grab the female’s attention. Whether female guppies like it or not, male guppies would keep on chasing them all of the time. Now after you have known that guppies are very active and energetic swimmers, if you ever find one guppy hiding all of the time and not swimming actively like the rest of the guppies, be alarmed; it could be showing signs of stress or illness.

Appearance of guppies

Guppies, as we said before, have different shapes, sizes, colors and tails. In their natural habitat, female guppies are not as colourful as male guppies.

You can differentiate between a male and a female guppy by realizing the huge difference between their colors. The female guppy is much dimmer and appears to be grey. Whereas male guppies have bright colors with spots, stripes or splashes. But have you ever asked yourself, “Why is there such a variety in colors and patterns of guppies?”

This is because the breeders work on creating new guppies with different colors that have varying patterns and stripes on their bodies. New strains are formed every day because of the breeder’s keenness on creating them. To be honest, what they are doing is brilliant! Even the female guppies themselves prefer to pick the guppy males who have rare and unique colors to mate.

As males pass their genes to their babies, so the mother guppy is a picky one who wants her next generation inherit their father’s unique genes.

Another difference between male guppies and female guppies is their sizes. Males are always smaller than female guppies. They are 0.6-1.4 inches. On the other hand, female guppies are 1.2-2.4 inches.

Male GuppiesFemale Guppies
More patternsLess patterns
Smaller in sizeBigger in size
More colourfulLess colourful
Longer finsShorter fins
Presence of gonopodiumAbsence of gonopodium

Colors

Guppies have many colors that you do not even know about. This is why they certainly deserve to be referred to as “The Rainbow Fish”.

The upper parts of their bodies usually has a paler color yet the rest of the body has brighter shades. It is very interesting to look at a tank filled with guppies. I bet you will be amazed and impressed by the many vibrant colors that make the tank look like a work of art.

Some guppies have a metallic appearance. Some of them have cells that are colorless; when the light falls on these cells, they are reflected and appear as if there is something glittering in the tank. How awesome!

Body color patterns

Some guppies have a solid color while other guppies have patterns on their bodies. For example:

PatternExplanation
Cobra Vertical patterns and rosettes
Snakeskin Rosettes and a pattern of chain-link
TuxedoOne side of the fish usually stained black

Tail shape

How does the shape look like? There is no definite answer to this question. There are many tail shapes and types, for example:

  • Fan
  • Triangle
  • Sword
  • Flag
  • Spade
  • Rounded
  • Spear
  • Lyretails

Tail pattern

When it comes to the shape of the tail, it could also have a solid color or a pattern just like the rest of the body. For example:

PatternExplanation
Grass Dots on the tail which make it look like grass
LaceWeb-like pattern
LeopardSpots that resemble those of leopard’s
MosaicIrregular pattern of inter-connected spots

The best tank conditions for guppies

VariableOptimum range
Tank size2 gallons per fish
Temperature75-82 degrees Fahrenheit
pH6.8-7.8
Hardness8-12 dGH
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrites0 ppm
NitratesLess than 40 ppm

Of course, no matter how professional you are at making impressive tanks that are a copy of nature, you will never make it as perfect and accurate as nature itself.

Nature is a masterpiece that cannot and will never be copied or imitated no matter how hard you try. But at least, you have to do your best to provide your tank with plants, pebbles, algae and replicate the environment that is found in rivers, lakes or even seas.

Your tank’s decorations play a very big and an important role in comforting the fish that you are keeping and providing them with a sense of security or a sense of feeling back at home since there is no place like home, of course.

As guppies naturally live in freshwaters in South America, you must know how to make their tank look similar to their original habitat by providing them with suitable conditions. Try as much as you can to make the tank feel like a natural environment.

Fish in general, and not only guppies, need their tank to be set up accurately and correctly. You have to track the water and get it cycled properly and regularly. If you do this, you would have made sure that you have bacteria in your tank that will destroy any harmful compounds into harmless ones.

Furthermore, you need to provide your guppies with a relatively large tank. If you are planning to purchase a 10-gallon tank, that would be good for 5 or 6 guppies, yet some people explain that a 5-gallon tank is big enough for guppies and that would not cause them any problem.

Why is it important to have a big tank? This is because guppies are active swimmers and they have very random and haphazard swimming patterns all around the tank, so they need to feel free and they love to have enough space and enough room to move around without crashing into other fish.

In other words, guppies hate overcrowded tanks. Overcrowded tanks cause stress and aggression among the guppies. Do not overlook this issue because a tank filled with 5 guppies only today could be a tank filled with 500 guppies tomorrow because they reproduce a lot and this would result in overpopulation which will lead to fights and stress.

You are supposed to get a heater for your tank to adjust the water’s temperature.

The water’s temperature should be around 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are a beginner pet fish owner and do not know where to put your tank’s heater, you have consulted the right article! You are supposed to put the heater at one end of the tank and on the other end of the tank, place a thermometer to always check the water’s temperature and see if it needs to be readjusted.

Guppies are hardy to the extent that they can cope in different types of pH ranges, but since there is an ideal criterion, why not implement it?

The ideal pH for guppies is between 7.0 and 7.2 although they can easily survive a pH range of 6.8-7.8.

When it comes to a filtration system, guppies do not necessarily need a filter in their tank. However, the presence of a filter saves you many guppies’ lives.

Filters help in purifying the water from harmful bacteria, parasites, wastes and food leftovers. It is important because guppies get oxygen from water and they get it through their gills.

If the water is intoxicated, the guppies would die. Moreover, if there is a high level of ammonia and other toxic chemicals in the water, the filter helps in getting rid of all of the poisonous chemicals that flout the water and kill the guppies. So, if you can afford buying a filter, go ahead!

Types of filtration systems

There are three types of filtration:

Type of filtrationUse
Mechanical filtrationTo get rid of debris
Chemical filtrationTo detoxify water
Biological filtrationTo get rid of excreta and dead/decaying matter

What type of tank do you plan to have?

The requirements that you need to provide your guppies with depend on the type of the tank that you are planning to have. There are two types of tank that you need to differentiate between:

  • Show Tank
  • Breeding Tank

These two tanks are dedicated especially to two different circumstances.

The show tank is dedicated to keeping the tank as a display at home or anywhere and the breeding tank is dedicated to breeding fish.

In order to take care of guppies in a show tank, you need to get your tank fully planted. Guppies love plants and they use plants to hide behind. In addition, plants serve as hiding places for the fry as the adult guppies (even the mother) can eat the babies.

Natural plants would help in purifying the tank’s water too. Plants in a fish tank give some sense of security and familiarity to the fish because plants make them feel they are in their original native habitats.

The best plants to have in a show tank are Amazon Sword Plants and Hornworts.

Plus you can add substrate and rocks of your choice in the tank. Guppies spend most of their time at the top of the tank or swim in the middle of it, so taking care of the tank’s decoration would surely make them feel comfortable and their playfulness would start to reveal itself.

Now, as far as the breeding tank is concerned, it has certain requirements since breeding will take place in it.

It is recommended to add floating plants like Java Moss in the breeding tank because this will help the newly born guppies to hide from the adults.

Plants will help in filtering the water as well and it is important to have clean pure water in the breeding tank to prevent any kind of bacterial infection to the fry.  The tank should be cleaned regularly every week and the water needs to have 25% of it partially changed on a weekly basis. The cleaner the water is, the healthier the guppies would be.

The best tank mates for guppies

The answer is: more guppies! Guppies love to live in groups. Having a group of guppies in a tank would be such an interesting thing.

The vast majority of pet fish owners get male guppies and lots of them because they love having a tank filled with cheerful colors that give life to the tank.

Female guppies are not that colourful, so if you wish to have a tank that looks vivid and you only care about the tank’s appearance, this means you need to keep male guppies only and no female guppies.

If you want to know how many guppies do you need to get, let me explain to you how you calculate that.

Every guppy needs 2 gallons of water, therefore if you want to purchase 5 guppies, the best tank for them would be 10 gallons; and if you want to buy 10 guppies, you need to buy a 20-gallon tank so that you provide each guppy with enough room to swim and practice its random swimming patterns all around the tank.

Now, if you wish to keep male and female guppies together in the same tank, the best ratio would be 1:2. This means that for every male guppy, there should be 2 females.

Guppies, as we mentioned before, are peaceful and friendly. They can mingle with other fish species. The best species they can get along with are:

  • Mollies
  • Corydoras
  • Platies
  • Gouramis
  • Neon tetras
  • Swordtails

Livebearers like swordtails and platies would be perfect tank mates to the guppies since guppies are also livebearers.

Never ever try to place guppies with larger or aggressive species. This is due to the fact that larger fish could prey on the guppies and devour them almost instantly.

You surely do not wish to have a tank filled with wrestling fish or having “a feeding frenzy” game. Therefore, do not add guppies in the same tank with Red Tailed Sharks, aggressive and bully tetras or Barbs.

These fish could bully the guppies and nip at their fins. If you are interested in having a tank filled with other animals, why not add an African Dwarf Frog or a Ghost Shrimp? They would make excellent and friendly tank mates to the guppies as well.

The best diet for guppies

Guppies are not picky eaters; they can eat a variety of things. They are also hungry all of the time and would beg for food after just getting fed a few minutes ago.

By the way, giving guppies a variety of food would enhance their health and help them function better. They are omnivores and can eat plants as well as animals. They will never reject any type of fish food you give them to the extent that they can devour mosquito larvae delightfully.

Feeding them with different nutrients is good for their health because in this way you are giving them a mixture of protein and vitamins which are necessary to help them grow and provide them with sufficient energy needed to perform their swimming activities.

If you plan to buy food for your guppies, the best thing is to get fish flakes rich in protein and vitamins.

Stay away from buying fish flakes that have fillers like soy and wheat. It is always a good idea to give your guppies some frozen food like bloodworms and shrimps. In addition to that you can feed them vegetables like chops of lettuce and peas.

Pet stores now have some items which you can purchase to facilitate the process of feeding your fish. You can buy a triangular cone feeder where the fish swim to the cone and pull out the food from the holes of this feeder. It would help you in feeding the fish live food.

The average amount of feeding that your guppies require is only once or twice a day. Do not overfeed the guppies because if you do, there will be lots of waste and food leftovers that will foul the water and make it murky and unhygienic for the guppies to be in.

If there are fry in the tank, you have to feed them smaller amounts of food but more frequently; around 4 or 5 times a day. Make sure that the food that you are giving to your guppies is chopped into small pieces. Guppies do not eat food which is in large pieces.

Method of reproduction

Guppies breed without you having to interfere and would breed in a tank filled with tens of other fish. Female guppies are ovoviviparous. This means that female guppies keep the fry in an egg inside their bodies till the pregnancy is over and it is time to give birth to them.

The baby guppies get their nutrients from the egg sac in the mother’s body until it is time to hatch when it the mother starts giving birth to them and they are finally released into the water.

It is not difficult to tell a male guppy from a female one. Once they reach one month of age, they are adults and you can tell that the male guppy is the colourful one with wide fins, big tail and the stick-like anal fin called the gonopodium. Whereas females have a gravid spot that grows bigger when it gets pregnant and becomes even darker.

The breeding process

Scientists say that male guppies can tell a virgin female guppy from one that has been pregnant. The male guppy contacts briefly the female guppy for fertilization; he passes spermatophores (sperms) into the female.

This packet of sperms releases thousands of sperms and actually the female stores the unused sperms to impregnate herself later on. This means that a female guppy can get pregnant several times from one fertilization process only.

The process of fertilizing the egg and forming the embryo takes about four to 5 days. During the remainder of the gestation period, the embryo develops the rest of its organs. The gestation period is around 21 to 30 days then the female guppy gives birth to live fry.

Some common diseases

There are some common diseases that can infect the guppies like the Ich disease. When guppies are infected with disease, white spots appear on their bodies and the guppies will rub their skin against things. Another common disease if fin rot, the fin would be ragged as if it is torn.

Related questions

Do guppies need sunlight? Sure, they need sunlight or light in general but do not place them in the light for 12 hours. Too much light would deprive them from sleeping which is necessary for the guppies to rest and store their energy.

Do guppies eat algae? Yes, they do eat algae that grow in the tank naturally.

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